Two Upper Iowa University students recently attended the Civic Action Academy at University of Northern Iowa to learn new ways to make a difference in society through civic and community engagement. More specifically, senior biology major Julia Szepieniec and graduate student Bethany Stock attended the event to help build stronger volunteering skills to better organize the area’s annual Fayette Appreciation Day.
Undergraduate and graduate students from across the Midwest attended the November 8-9 event in Cedar Falls to learn from professionals across various sectors. The skill-building sessions included philanthropy, leadership, dialogue, advocacy and more. Students also had the opportunity to learn what others are doing on their respective campuses and further network with peers.
“Many of the students in attendance had a number of ideas and motives to make the college experience better,” Stock said. “I previously thought that students typically found one project they were passionate about and stuck to that one project, but I learned that they like to actively engage in new endeavors.”
The majority of participating business professionals had longstanding relationships with nonprofit organizations. From these experiences, the individuals not only learned new strategies but also how to effectively implement them.
After learning more about the importance of volunteer engagement, Szepieniec believes project leaders must understand the “why” for a specific community or civic action to better motivate the participating volunteers.
“Implementing a better communication process between service project hosts and volunteer coordinators is of the utmost importance,” Szepieniec said. “A volunteer who enjoys their work and strongly believes in its purpose is more likely to grow as an individual from the experience.
Actively involved with Fayette Appreciation Day and other UIU programs and activities, Stock and Szepieniec are eager to share the information they obtained at the academy with their Peacock peers.
A graduate assistant with UIU Student Activities, Stock serves as an advisor for the University’s Student Government Association and Peacocks for Progress, which organizes the community’s annual Fayette Appreciation Day. As the Peacocks for Progress president, Szepieniec serves as the Fayette Appreciation Day Chair. A member of the UIU women’s golf team, she is also a Student Athletic Advisory Committee, Athlete Peer Educator, and Pre-Professional Club member.
Szepieniec and Stock plan to implement the information and marketing techniques they obtained at the recent academy in time for the community’s annual Fayette Appreciation Day in April 2020. Peacocks for Progress members are organizing a marketing strategy that will further inject a sense of community for this and other volunteer projects, and provide participating students a greater feeling of empowerment.